Submission Time: Here we go! (Part 3: Going on Submission)
Now it's my turn. My revised draft is into my book agent. Now what? What happens next? Special update for all Writer's Edge subscribers.
Welcome back to Writer’s Edge … where we give you the “edge” on writing and publishing. The last two weeks we covered tips for going on submission and surviving rejection and the process. You can read the first two posts in the archives.
Today, we will have a nice segue to talking about working with agents and reps, including tips on the querying process and best practices. For professional writers who wish to publish traditionally, your agent is the key to the whole process. They’re your conduit to the editors and the publishing houses. You can’t submit work to the big publishing houses without a representative. The slush pile is a thing of the past.
Sorry, aspiring John Grisham’s (did you know A Time to Kill got published out of the slush pile?). Stephen King’s Carrie also came out of the famed slush pile (meaning, unagented submissions that someone has to sift through … a big pile).
Your agent handles submitting your work, and if your book garners interest, then they also handle negotiating offers and reviewing your contracts, and then they also become your protector and cheerleader in the usually lengthy process of shepherding your manuscript through editorial, all the way to publication (along with your editor, of course). And when you really need help—for example if any issues come up with your publisher, which they almost always do—they’re there to protect you.
We will get into this topic a lot deeper next week. First, let’s first chat about my new spec manuscript. As a follow-up to my debut sci-fi trilogy The 13th Continuum, I wrote a new space opera/romance on spec (meaning, without a publisher).
I began this particular book years ago, and I’ve continued working on it on and off, while juggling my Disney Chills book series and graphic novels, among other projects. Oh, and adjusting my worldbuild as real world events caught up with the “fictional” events on my narrative. Welcome to being a science fiction writer! In that time, I’ve written NINE books and countless short stories for anthologies. Whew!
I finally got it together and finished the draft late last summer. When you already have an agent, the next step of the process is—gulp!—to send the draft to your agent. Now my agent (Deborah Schneider/Gelfman Schneider) was aware of the book concept. I keep her in the loop as I tackle various projects. She’s been my agent my whole career (next week, I’ll write in detail about how I landed her to represent me).
Side note—some writers involve their agents in choosing their book ideas to draft. I may do this more in the future, but typically I decide what I want to write and keep my agent in the loop as I’m working on the draft. I figure we’ll find the path.
So, she knew about the book … but she hadn’t read it yet. Actually, nobody had read it. Period. I waited for a few weeks, then she finally emailed me back after her read. And fortunately, she LOVED my crazy dual POV space opera/romance. Huge relief, of course. No matter what, you always wonder if the book works. The next thing that always happens is that your agent will give you their thoughts and notes on the draft.
Deborah had many excellent suggestions, along with cutting the length down as the draft was 180k (my multiple POV sci-fi tends to run long). Next, it’s my job to take her feedback and implement into a revision. For the last several months, again putting it on hold to tackle both my next Disney Chills book and another secret Disney project, plus two commissioned anthology short stories, I worked diligently to slash the draft.
My agent had also requested a new, snappier title. After a lot of brainstorming, I’ve settled on a great new idea … I hope. Now, titles can always change, often at the behest of publishers. But they still represent your work and need to capture the essence of the story. I always tell my students—titles matter. Pay attention to them.
Slash and burn. Cut, cut, cut. Polish, polish, polish.
It goes something like that. Cutting almost always should speed the pacing. After a lot of hard work, I slashed 30k words from the draft. And I reached … THE END.
The last chapter made me very emotional, a good sign going forward. If I feel something, it usually means my readers will, too. My agent had said the book’s climax and resolution were quite satisfying. I’ve got that much going to for the book.
This week, I hit SEND and sent the revised draft off to my agent. She wrote back right away that she was excited to dive in. Reps should be responsive to your emails (not leave you hanging). Now, I’m back to waiting again. Was the revision work enough to get the book ready for submission? Or, will I have to do more editorial?
These days, publishers don’t like to do much work on the books they acquire. Another way to put it, your drafts better be basically ready for publication when you go on submission even with an agent. The market has gotten tough, making publishers more risk averse, not wanting to take on manuscripts that need more editorial work.
As a writer, revision is such a huge part of your job. Something agents often look for when signing clients is their ability to take notes/feedback and revise their work. This is an important muscle to learn to flex, often and regularly. Ever hear …
Writing is revising?
That’s why the last class of my 5-week novel workshops always includes a craft talk on revision. It’s that important and also that challenging.
Now, I’m back to waiting. That’s another part of this process. Likely, my agent will come back with additional notes—or if she thinks it’s ready—then we will start working on submitting the book. That means, she will build a submission list of editors to send the manuscript. Either way, it’s important to remember …
Trust your agent.
This is what I’m telling myself. Their job is to guide you through this process, so you can get the best possible shot at a book deal. And also get best deal you can.
That’s all for now! I’ll keep you posted as thing progress. In the meantime, I have an upcoming workshop this Monday that I’m teaching for Horror University’s Winter Session on Writing "Spooky" Stories for Younger Readers (Middle Grade/Young Adult). You can take the course live—or receive a recording of the workshop.
Next week, we’ll be chatting more indepthly about everything related to agents. There’s still time to upgrade to Paid Subscriber and get access to all the posts and not miss anything. Even better, I’m running a 7 DAY FREE TRIAL. I’ve got a lot of additional fun Writer’s Edge perks planned for the near future. Stay tuned!
Want more from me? Hire me as a book coach or editor.
Or, check out my upcoming writing workshops. I have a great workshop on 2/27 for the Horror Writers Association’s HORROR UNIVERSITY Winter Session.
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